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New Zealand

How a once-in-a-lifetime Gold Coast vacation turned into an ‘unimaginable tragedy’

Workers prepare to remove a crashed helicopter that collided with another on the Gold Coast on January 2.
photograph: Handout / ABC / AFP

It should have been the holiday of a lifetime.

The glitz and hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast drew crowds eager to say goodbye to a challenging year and welcome in the new year, creating lasting memories with their loved ones.

Among them were 13 visitors from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The group boarded two Sea World helicopters for a glimpse of Queensland’s sparkling turquoise waters and vast coastline that attracts crowds from all over the world.

Little did they know that a five-minute joy ride could quickly become an unforgettable day for all the wrong reasons.

Along with the company’s lead pilot, Ashley Jenkinson, was on board the helicopter with British couple Diane and Ron Hughes, Sydney’s mother Vanessa Tadros and her son Nicky, 10, a Victorian It was their mother, Winnie de Silva, and their son, Leon (9 years old).

Tadros and her son were photographed just before they took off in the helicopter.

Passengers’ loved ones waved goodbye as another helicopter headed home.

Brought in by pilot Michael James new zealand vacationers Edward and Merle Swart, and their friends Liane and Elmarie Steenberg, and a Western Australian man returning from the same tourist destination.

In just 20 seconds, the lives of the 13 people on board and their loved ones are forever changed.

Soaring into the sky in just a few seconds after takeoff, Jenkinson’s helicopter crashes by landing helicopter.

Elmarie and Riaan Steenberg, Edward and Marle Swart were vacationing in Queensland on January 2, 2023, when a SeaWorld helicopter collided with another.

New Zealand natives Riaan and Elmarie Steenberg, Edward and Marle Swart were vacationing in Queensland when their SeaWorld helicopter collided with another.
photograph: attached

fear in the sky

picture Photos taken by James’ helicopter passengers show the desperate moment before the crash, with at least one tourist desperately trying to warn the pilot of an impending crash.

From the cockpit of James’ helicopter, the glass is seen shattering as passengers jump out.

The main rotor blades of the ascending helicopter collided with the cockpit of another chopper on the left, and the ascending helicopter crashed to the ground, where it landed upside down on a sandbank.

Despite severe damage, James regains control of the helicopter and manages to miraculously make an emergency landing on the same sandbar.

On the ground, dozens of vacationers cooled off in the sea or lined up at SeaWorld, watching the horror unfold above, fearing a helicopter would crash above the crowd.

Sea World staff and recreational boats rushed to the sandbar in a desperate attempt to save the passengers.

Paramedics provided first aid at the scene and 13 people were taken to the hospital, including 3 with serious injuries, 6 with serious injuries and 4 with minor injuries.

The lives of four passengers were catastrophically cut short that day: British couple Ron and Diane Hughes, Vanessa Tadros of Sydney, and pilot Ashley Jenkinson.

The pilot of the other helicopter, Michael James, has been hailed as a hero for landing the helicopter “amazingly” and preventing further fatalities.

Tadros’ son Nikki is seriously injured and is fighting for his life at the Gold Coast University Hospital.

A special Mass is held at a church in Western Sydney attended by the Tadros family and dedicated to a boy affectionately known as “Little Nicky”.

The parish priest, Father Suresh Kumar, pleaded with the people to “pray for a miracle.”

Father Suresh Kumar said Nikki’s school friends, teachers and fellow parishioners from St Padre Pio parish are praying for Nikki’s healing and his mother Vanessa’s “peace of mind”.

Simon Tadros, Vanessa’s husband and Nicky’s father, stood in Broadwater, watching helplessly as his most dear loved ones sank to the ground.

He later announced in a social media post the death of his wife and the closure of her event planning business.

Rising Tide Threatens Vital Evidence

Hours after the crash, the tide threatened to wash away perishable evidence, so investigators cleared the sandbar of key clues and landed the helicopter overnight.

The next day, investigators began examining the wreckage and interviewing witnesses to identify the forces at work.

In an attempt to piece together what led to the tragedy, Angus Mitchell, head of the Australian Transport Safety Authority, called for witnesses to come forward, along with cellphone and CCTV footage.

Just one day before the crash, the de Silva family had traveled from Victoria to the Gold Coast for a family reunion to celebrate their new life.

Winnie de Silva moved to Geelong, south of Melbourne, after emigrating from Kenya and had just recently obtained a visa for her son Leon, 9.

Her husband, Neil de Silva, told Channel 9 that Leon wanted to see dolphins at SeaWorld from the sky, and waved to his wife and son-in-law on Joyflight.

In this photo taken and released on January 3, 2023, two helicopters rest in the water after they collided mid-air on the Gold Coast on January 2, killing four people.

Two helicopters resting in the water after a crash.
photograph: Handout / ABC / AFP

Due to our limited budget, the family booked a flight as an additional experience for about $70.

He was in an accident and his wife broke two legs in addition to a broken shoulder and collarbone while Leon was in critical condition battling a severe head injury.

The boy was airlifted to Queensland Children’s Hospital, while Winnie de Silva remained at Gold Coast University Hospital.

In a statement from the hospital yesterday, Winnie de Silva, who is now in stable condition, thanked the public for her “kind thoughts and prayers of healing” after such an “unthinkable time.” Did.

After speaking with her son via video call, she said he was “getting stronger day by day.”

From the hospital, De Silva said she continued to pray for Nikki Tadros, who was sitting near her in the same helicopter.

‘Giant Hole’ Left in British Families

British citizens Ron and Diane Hughes, who arrived on the Gold Coast last week, finally got the chance to reunite with their Australian families after years of border closures.

Described as “a couple who were generous, loyal, fun-loving, and had a zest for life,” their family said they were loved and adored by everyone they met.

Like any other flight, the chopper flight is just a reminder of a fun underground vacation.

Instead, two families in the UK and Australia were left with a ‘big hole’.

“They will be survived by their parents, brothers, sons, daughters, and cheeky grandchildren,” said the pair’s family.

Elmarie Steenberg and Marle Swart were vacationing in Queensland on 2nd January 2023 when the Sea World helicopter they were in collided with another helicopter.

Elmarie Steenberg and Merle Swart, who were on vacation, were discharged from hospital on Thursday after the crash.
photograph: attached

But the Hughes weren’t the only foreign tourists to experience tragedy.

New Zealanders Edward Swart and Merle Swart were vacationing with their close friends Liane and Elmarie Steenberg when they decided to take a helicopter trip.

Aboard a second aircraft, piloted by James, the couple escaped without life-threatening injuries. Elmarie Steenberg and Merle Swart were discharged from hospital on Thursday.

In a statement, the couple said they were “completely devastated” by the accident and felt “blessed to have survived”.

They thanked those who rushed to their aid, describing it as “comrades in action.”

Mr. and Mrs. Steenberg and Mr. and Mrs. Swartz posted photos and highlight videos of the trip on social media in the days before the crash.

They said they were cooperating with the Australian Transport Safety Authority and Queensland Police investigations.

Chief Pilot Ashley Jenkinson has more than 6,000 flight hours and is known for delivering food to flood victims in northern New South Wales.

The 40-year-old, who was left with a fiancé, Kosher, and a toddler son, remembered the Sea World Helicopters director as “a great pilot, a great man, and a great father and partner.” rice field.

As the initial shock wears off and a new devastating reality begins for the family, the memorial and funeral planning begins.

A human chain will be erected at the Broadwater Site on January 15 to commemorate the victims of the tragedy and those who came to the rescue.

The Australian Transport Safety Authority is expected to release a preliminary report on the incident in the coming weeks, with a final report expected within eight months.


https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/482066/how-a-gold-coast-holiday-of-a-lifetime-descended-into-unthinkable-tragedy How a once-in-a-lifetime Gold Coast vacation turned into an ‘unimaginable tragedy’

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